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Wholesale changes by Angels not necessary

Wholesale changes by Angels not necessary

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ANAHEIM -- It won't be as extensive as the work done last winter, but the Angels have more critical personnel decisions to make coming off a highly disappointing 2010 season.

First and foremost is the offense -- specifically, what to do with a unit that fell flat after losing Chone Figgins and Vladimir Guerrero to free agency. The decline in production was pretty much across the board, with the exception of Torii Hunter, Howard Kendrick and Mike Napoli.

There are some intriguing potential free-agent hitters, notably Carl Crawford, Adrian Beltre and Adam Dunn.

Crawford would bring back the element of speed along with consistent production, especially in clutch situations -- the one area where the Angels were most deficient this season. Beltre is among the premier two-way players in the game, with power and a great glove at third base. Dunn is a disciplined basher with few equals.

The Angels also could explore the trade market for some muscle or speed or both. Known during the Mike Scioscia era for their fast-break style, they were more station to station this season with Figgins gone, relying on the long ball more than manufacturing runs.

"We've taken the paint off this issue," Scioscia said, referring to the club's inability to produce consistent offense, "especially with the season we had last year with it and where we are now. There are a lot of things that factor into it. In some areas, there are going to have to be personnel changes."

It does not appear likely the Angels will bring back designated hitter Hideki Matsui, preferring to keep the job open for a revolving cast of position players. This always has been Scioscia's preference.

While the offense gets most of the focus, there also will attention paid to a bullpen that also struggled to find a consistent groove. With Scot Shields expected to depart via free agency and Brian Fuentes having been sent to the Twins, the club figures to take a long look at veteran relievers. Of special interest will be lefties, given there are none now available to Scioscia.

"We feel we have some good power arms at the back of the 'pen," Scioscia said, referring to Jordan Walden, Kevin Jepsen and Fernando Rodney. Also bidding to perform their way into the mix are Matt Palmer, Jason Bulger, Michael Kohn, Francisco Rodriguez, Rich Thompson and Bobby Cassevah.

The rotation is potentially among the best in the game, with co-aces Jered Weaver and Dan Haren backed by Ervin Santana, Joel Pineiro and Scott Kazmir. A return to All-Star form by Kazmir could make this a dominant unit.

If Kazmir doesn't recapture his form, Palmer likely would get first call.

"I don't think we need to make a lot of changes," Scioscia said, "but we're always looking to improve our club."

It could make for another interesting winter, even if a 25 percent roster overall along the lines of this season isn't likely.

It remains to be seen how flexible owner Arte Moreno will be with his payroll, which came in at about $121 million in 2010. With about $95 million already committed and big arbitration numbers due Kendry Morales and Weaver, it figures to be close to that number again. How high they'll go is uncertain, but this much is known about the Angels' owner: Moreno does not like losing seasons.

Contract issues
Free agents: Scot Shields, RHP; Hideki Matsui, OF/DH.
Eligible for arbitration: Jered Weaver, RHP; Kendry Morales, 1B; Alberto Callaspo, 3B; Jeff Mathis, C; Mike Napoli, C; Howard Kendrick, 2B; Erick Aybar, SS; Reggie Willits, OF.
Player options: None.
Club options: None.
Non-tender possibilities: None.

A position-by-position look at where the 2010 roster stands going into 2011. The arrows represent how the player's 2010 season compared to 2009.

Catchers
Mike Napoli
Jeff Mathis
Bobby Wilson
Hank Conger

The Angels, on the plus side, have the luxury of catching depth. On the negative side, they don't have one clear standout. Napoli is a power hitter extraordinaire with average defensive skills. Mathis is a superior receiver who hasn't hit with consistency. Wilson is rock solid all around, nothing exceptional. Conger is pure potential but raw.

First base
Kendry Morales
Mike Napoli
Mark Trumbo

Morales is one of the best in the game, offensively and defensively. Getting him back is the biggest plus the Angels will have heading into 2011 after he went down for the season on May 29. Napoli played surprisingly well at first, expanding his value, while Trumbo has big-time power potential.

Second base
Howard Kendrick
Maicer Izturis
Kevin Frandsen

Kendrick made significant strides hitting in the clutch and with the glove, improving in turning the double play. Izturis is as smooth and efficient as they come and a solid hitter -- if only he can stay healthy. Frandsen is a valued supersub.

Shortstop
Erick Aybar
Maicer Izturis
Brandon Wood

Aybar did not play to his sensational 2009 form, slipping offensively and defensively. But he has tremendous upside. Izturis rarely makes a mistake. Wood is an excellent defender who needs to show he can make contact offensively.

Third base
Alberto Callaspo
Brandon Wood
Maicer Izturis

Callaspo is a solid all-around player, but doesn't generate the power you'd like in a corner infielder without plus speed. Wood is a good defender, but must find a confident stroke. Izturis is probably the best of the three all-around.

Outfield
Torii Hunter
Bobby Abreu
Peter Bourjos
Juan Rivera
Reggie Willits
Mark Trumbo

Hunter's willingness to move to right field amazed people who'd watched him flourish in center for a decade. He showed he puts the team ahead of his own comfort level, freeing the swift Bourjos to make a series of sensational plays in center with a strong, accurate arm. Abreu will play left and get a lot of DH opportunities, it appears. Rivera is better in right than left. Willits is solid in all three roles, and Trumbo, a first baseman, is learning on the job knowing Morales owns first.

Designated hitter
Bobby Abreu
Juan Rivera
Mike Napoli

Abreu figures to get more assignments than anybody here, followed by Napoli, Rivera, Izturis and Hunter.

Rotation
Jered Weaver
Dan Haren
Ervin Santana
Joel Pineiro
Scott Kazmir

It doesn't get much better than this group. If it holds up physically and if Kazmir bounces back with a season his talent can deliver, it will be one of the game's best, top to bottom. Weaver and Haren are right there with any duo in the game, except the Phillies' Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt. Santana and Pineiro get outs and deliver innings. Kazmir needs to find a breaking pitch and consistent fastball command. If he falters, Palmer and young Trevor Bell are solid options as the fifth starter.

Bullpen
Fernando Rodney
Kevin Jepsen
Jordan Walden
Jason Bulger
Matt Palmer
Michael Kohn
Francisco Rodriguez
Rich Thompson
Bobby Cassevah

The accent is on power arms here. The hardest thrower, and most intriguing long-term prospect, is Walden, who was consistently in the 98-100-mph range in September. He has a shot at greatness. Jepsen also has overpowering stuff and is lacking only in consistent command. Rodney was great early in the closing role and erratic late in the season, putting that vital role in question. It's likely the club will search free agency and the trade market for at least one new arm, ideally a southpaw since there are none in the current mix.

Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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